I recently read “Bernie or bust: a centrist Democrat is still as bad as Trump for some on left” by Ankita Rao writing for The Guardian. While the “#BernieOrBust” ethos of some on the left won’t be news to anyone like me who was a Bernie supporter in 2016 and a Warren supporter (who would also have been perfectly happy with Bernie) in 2020, something about seeing it in print and not just as angry voices on Twitter compelled me to write about the mindset of the progressive Biden voter.
First, let me pick out a few of the positions from the article that I completely agree with:
- Medicare for All is non-negotiable
- Legalization of marijuana is non-negotiable
- Biden is not a progressive candidate and was the only serious candidate I was actively opposed to in the primaries
- The article said it best: “Democrats have been throwing easy elections because they keep running boring centrists who don’t excite anyone”
- We need a system that allows for a viable third party, and we need it yesterday
- An ambitious plan to combat climate change is non-negotiable and the most important issue on the table
- It is time to push Biden and the party back to the left and abandon the Clinton-era centrist (for the U.S.) or right-of-center (almost anywhere else in the world) nonsense that the party has represented for so long
I make this list not to virtue signal and bolster my own liberal cred, but to illustrate that in any discussion of leftist voters that don’t like the idea of a vote for Biden, I am the voter being discussed. However, I absolutely will be voting for Biden come November. In fact, I consider a vote for Biden a vote for progressive values and liberal Democracy. Let me explain why.
There is a tendency among some on the left to vote for a candidate based on their stated policy goals and agenda above all else. Their vote is a message about the direction they want the country to go, and something with value, a means to an end, in and of itself. This means they’re willing to vote third party, or write in candidates like Bernie that aren’t actually running, even though we are in a two party system and their candidate has chance of winning so low as to be statistically meaningless. An oft heard refrain is that to do anything else is to “sacrifice [their] own integrity”, or that they do so “to send a message to the Democrats”. To think that one’s own “integrity”, or “sending a message” is more important than the lives of those less fortunate than them is a position of extreme privilege, and fighting against privilege for the majority and the wealthy is what being a progressive is all about.
For all Biden’s faults, he will not separate children from their parents at the border. Biden will not try to deport students, family members, and dreamers. Biden will not try to end asylum for those whose lives are in danger, or make repeated attempts to fully dismantle and privatize the healthcare system. Biden will not weaken environmental regulations, or fill the courts with right wing ideologues with no consistent judicial philosophy who’s rulings will only harm the most vulnerable among us. Biden will not appoint government officials who are openly white nationalists. He even has a good environmental policy heavily based on the Green New Deal.
Let me be clear: Biden may not agree with all my views, he may have demons in his past that I can’t overlook, and maybe he will never be a candidate that I can respect or follow with my head held high, but to vote against him, or to sit on the sidelines, is to think that your views, or your precious “integrity”, are more important than the 200,000 who have died from COVID-19, the families that have been separated, or the battle for the soul of the nation.
Pushing Biden and the Democrats to the left is a laudable goal, but a more progressive party helps no one if they aren’t in power. We can give the most progressive party we have that power in November, and there is one message we can send with our vote: America won’t stomach 4 more years of Donald Trump, even if that means electing Joe Biden.
And finally, if after all this you still can’t bring yourself to vote for Biden, consider your vote a vote for Kamala Harris, someone frequently derided by the right as one of the most liberal senators and scored by GovTrack as the most liberal senator in 2019.